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Here comes SGI. The company formerly known as Silicon Graphics has made a number of interesting announcements over the last week or so. It is worthwhile to have a look at their moves all together:
  • As had been expected, SGI announced a new server product: the 1400L. It takes up to four Xeon processors and comes, of course, with Linux preloaded. While SGI made its name in graphics, the truth is that they have been a strong performer in the server arena for a long time. The 1400L looks to be a well-designed, high-end Intel-based server system. And it runs Linux.

    There is, of course, an NT-based version available as well. Interestingly, it costs $1000 more than the Linux version.

  • What happened to IRIX? SGI has let it slip that they have pretty much dropped the idea of porting IRIX to the Intel architecture - they will go with Linux instead. Thus, there will probably be no IRIX for the IA-64 ("Merced") processor either. According to Hank Shiffman, a "strategy technologist" at SGI, "Given the resources we have, we have to focus on just one [operating system] and that one is Linux." (Quoted in PC Week UK).

    LWN has been predicting for a while (along with many, many others) that Linux would end up displacing the proprietary Unix systems. There is little economic sense in a hardware company producing its own operating system when there is such a high-quality alternative that they can use for free. It is beginning to look like IRIX is the first of the proprietary systems to fall; it will not be the last.

    Partly as a result of SGI's announcements, the trade press is actually beginning to believe that Linux will have a large presence in a computing future that, apparently, will be dominated by IA-64 systems. Most still seem to think, however, that the strongest Unix on IA-64 will be "Monterey," a system being developed by IBM, SCO, and others. But by the time Monterey is both real and stable, who will still be interested?

  • Something that should not be missed: while many computer companies are adopting Linux to some extent, most of them are contenting themselves with installing it on some systems, and maybe providing some support options. SGI is going beyond that by throwing in development resources and contributing back to Linux.

    The biggest example, of course, is the contribution of their XFS filesystem. Progress on XFS is slow, as had been predicted; it will not show up in a stable kernel anytime this year. SGI's contributions go well beyond XFS, however; a perusal of their pages turns up a list of kernel patches contributed by SGI to help with immediate performance problems. There is also code for 4GB memory support, a kernel debugger, storage management, and a number of other things. Finally, SGI has been a supporter of the Samba project for some time now. All of these projects are going out as open source.

While a number of companies are getting into Linux seemingly just to get on the bandwagon and keep their bases covered, SGI appears to be one that really "gets it." A company that is an active contributor to the system almost has to get better results from it. With luck, SGI will realize the benefits of being an active part of the Linux community; if so, we are seeing a piece of the computing industry's future in SGI's actions.

(See also: SGI's open source page, their projects page, the SGI Linux page, this this News.com article with some good quotes on why SGI is attracted to Linux, the 1000 series press release, and this release about their partnership with Red Hat). Thanks to Ariel Faigon for pointing us to some of the information above.

Can the bazaar be original? Here's a brief essay from Eric Raymond, intended to be a new section for "The Cathedral and the Bazaar," which addresses the question of whether bazaar-style development can come up with original ideas. Eric, of course, believes that it can.

Eric has also made a new version of The Cathedral and the Bazaar available - the first in over a year. Eric evidently has a deal in place with O'Reilly to package up his papers into a cloth-bound book aimed at business readers.

The second LinuxWorld Expo is next week. LWN editors Elizabeth Coolbaugh and Jonathan Corbet will be present at the Expo, keep an eye out for us! (We will also be teaching a tutorial on Linux systems administration in large network environments on Monday, August 9).

Look to the Linux Weekly News (and the daily updates page) for our coverage of this event.

The Great Linux Giveaway. Eklektix, Inc., publisher of the Linux Weekly News, will be joining ASL Workstations, Inc.in their "Great Linux Giveaway" promotion. Somebody will be winning a AS-LT300 laptop and a seat in our Linux administration for Unix administrators class. It is a great combination of prizes; please see ASL events page for more information.

Red Hat's IPO is also scheduled to happen sometime next week. A lot of Linux folks can be expected to be watching the stock quote services if all goes according to plan....

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August 5, 1999


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